The Jordan Valley is not essential to Israel’s security because the country is not facing a threat from the east, said former Mossad director Meir Dagan, days after a ministerial panel supported legislation to officially annex the Israeli settlements in the valley, which borders Jordan.
“I have no problem with the political demand that the valley should be part of the State of Israel,” Dagan said in a lecture at a Kfar Saba café last week, according to Maariv. “Such a position is permissible. What bothers me is that it’s being depicted as some kind of security problem. There is no Iraqi army, there is no eastern front. There’s peace with Jordan. I don’t like the talk that the valley is essential to Israel’s security.”
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Dagan said citing security reasons for retaining the Jordan Valley was “manipulation.”
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, weighing in on the issue on Sunday during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to the region, told public radio that it would be a mistake to accept any security concessions for the Jordan Valley:
"Security must remain in our hands. Anyone who proposes a solution in the Jordan Valley by deploying an international force, Palestinian police or technological means ... does not understand the Middle East," Steinitz said.
The fate of the Jordan Valley was expected to be one of the major issues Kerry was planning to discuss in his meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry is in the region to discuss his “framework agreement” and push forward Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
According to reports, a new security plan drafted by Washington calls for Israel to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 years, as part of a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are vehemently opposed to the plan.
Netanyahu warned Likud ministers last week against voting for a bill to annex Jordan Valley settlements, saying such a move could be perceived as provocative and might harm Israel. Hours after his remarks, and despite his warning, all Likud ministers in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation supported such a bill.
Last week government ministers and Knesset members attended the dedication of a new neighborhood in the Jordan Valley, watching cement poured into the foundations and sending the message that “our presence here in the Jordan Valley is not a temporary one,” said Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar.
“The Jordan Valley is Israeli and the Jordan Valley will stay Israeli. Our eastern border must be the Jordan River,” Sa’ar went on, adding that if Israel didn’t keep control of the area, the Jewish state will lack 'strategic depth' necessary for its survival."